If you’ve already made a will, you might well be thinking ‘job done’ – after all, approximately 60% of people in the UK don’t have one. But if there’s been a big change in your life, or if you haven’t revisited your will for several years, it might be time to make a new one.
In this blog, we’ll assume you already have a will (if you don’t, here’s why you should make one) and talk you through the process of making an update.
I’ve Already Made a Will – Why Would I Need to Change It?
Often, the reason to make or revisit a will is connected to a big change in your life, such as a change in your marital status or the arrival of a new child. If your circumstances have altered, you’ll want to make sure all your loved ones are protected – and this should be addressed in your will.
Below we discuss some of the ‘change moments’ that might affect a current will.
One important thing to note about marriage is that it completely invalidates any will you made previously. This is the case for all marriages unless you put an ‘in contemplation of marriage’ clause in your will before the union takes place. Such a clause then means that the will ‘survives’ the marriage itself.
If you have recently married and have not updated your will then you should see a solicitor as soon as you can. Most married couples complete what we call ‘mirror wills’. Drawing up mirror wills allows parents to unite their wishes regarding inheritance (typically, spouses will leave assets to each other and then to their children) and outline jointly-agreed guardian provisions.
But what would happen if you hadn’t made a new will but had separated from your partner? Should something happen to you, your ex would inherit under the will as previously drafted. If you were in possession of the decree absolute, however, your will would be treated as if your husband or wife had died before you (meaning that the rest of your will would stand, other than any gifts to your ex-spouse).
Nonetheless, it’s our strong recommendation that you update your will in the event of any changes in your marriage – just in case.
If you are expecting your first child, you should consider updating your will to provide guardians for them. In the unlikely event that you and your spouse (or partner) pass away while your child is under 18, should a guardian not be appointed, the family courts would be charged with deciding who should provide care for your child. In addition, the process itself causes a serious amount of stress at an already difficult time.
Co-habitees and second marriages
If you aren’t married and you die without a will, it’s bad news for your partner. Whilst spouses and children are protected under the law regardless, co-habitees have zero rights. If you’re in a committed relationship and are not married, it’s very important that you make a will or your partner will not receive anything.
If you are contemplating a new marriage but have children from a previous relationship, it’s also important to think carefully about your will. Your new marriage would invalidate any existing will, meaning that – were something to happen to you – your children may not inherit what you had intended. It’s vital that you update your will accordingly to protect both your new spouse and your children: if things aren’t clear, not only could your children receive less, but also there could be a great deal of discord following your death.
Change in financial circumstances
It’s worth considering making revisions to your will if your financial circumstances change substantially, too. For example, if you inherit some money, or if you sell your business, you might want to seek legal advice.
Setting up a new business is also a good time to update your will. There are certain tax reliefs available that a solicitor can offer advice on. Whilst we also recommend that you make an appointment with a qualified tax adviser, solicitors who are experts in wills and estate planning (like our own Harriet Turnbull) should be able to help you maximise and protect that relief – so it’s a great place to start.
If you’re considering an update to your will, we’re here to help. Our experienced lawyers provide sensitive, expert advice that takes into account all your personal circumstances. Please contact us today for a no-obligation chat about your needs.
Disclaimer: this material is a general overview only, and is not intended to provide legal advice.